DAYS AFTER its lone MP, Rajya Sabha member Birendra Prasad Baishya, voted in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an ally of the ruling BJP, did a U-turn on Sunday and said it would file a petition in the Supreme Court seeking exemption for all the districts in the Brahmaputra Valley.
Of the 33 districts in the state, only three are in Barak Valley — a Bengali-majority region comprising Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj and home to a large population of post-Partition migrants from what is now Bangladesh. This is the only region in the state that largely supports the new law.
The rest of the state, mostly in Brahmaputra Valley, has seen widespread protests against it.
The new citizenship law exempts tribal areas of the state which fall under Sixth Schedule — the districts of Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong and Bodoland Territorial Areas.
Addressing a press conference in the evening, AGP president and minister Atul Bora said the party would take the legal route for seeking exemption for the Brahmaputra Valley region.
“We will not allow it to be implemented in Assam. We will approach the Supreme Court. A party delegation will soon go to meet the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to urge them to reconsider the new law. We will also appeal to the government that any decision on the law should be taken only after talking to leading organisations (in Assam) like the AASU, AJYCP and others,” senior AGP leader Ramendra Kalita told The Indian Express.
“We never supported the CAB… Yes, our Rajya Sabha MP voted for it — that raised several questions in the minds of people. But the BJP has majority, it would have passed CAB even if we had voted against it. But we have clarified our stand now,” he said.
“As part of the NDA, there was a whip (to vote for CAB). That’s why the vote (in Rajya Sabha). There is no other politics involved in the decision,” said senior AGP leader and minister Keshav Mahanta. He later clarified that while the parties had issued whips, the AGP followed the NDA’s decision since it is part of the alliance.
Earlier this year, the AGP had walked out of the NDA over CAB. But barely two months later, it returned to the alliance to contest the general elections with the BJP, and reclaimed three ministerial berths in the state government.
Reacting to the AGP’s decision, a senior BJP leader said “it’s a face-saving tactic”. “A political party needs clarity, honesty and should uphold the sense of friendship with their ally — the AGP showed none of these,” said another BJP leader.
“All this is mere drama by the AGP. They have already betrayed the people of Assam. They think the people of Assam are fools — but we are very intelligent. The people of Assam will teach them a lesson,” said Congress spokesperson Rhituporna Konwar.
In the 2016 elections to the 126-member Assam Assembly, the winning alliance comprised the BJP (61), BPF (13) and AGP (14).